Macular degeneration is a condition that typically happens in older people and can lead to blurred vision or blindness. It affects millions of people around the world and is the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50. Though there is no cure for macular degeneration, also referred to as age-related macular degeneration or AMD, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself.
Let’s take a look at five effective ways to reduce your risk for AMD, which is particularly important if it runs in your family.
Choose a Healthy Diet
The saying goes, “You are what you eat.” This couldn’t be more true with your eyes. The foods you eat can have a significant impact on their health.
For the prevention of macular degeneration, choose a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables. The antioxidants, vitamins and minerals contained in them can boost eye health. Some of the best selections include kale, spinach, broccoli and peas.
Some research shows that foods containing high amounts of zinc can also be beneficial. These include high-protein foods like beef, pork, lamb, milk, cheese, yogurt and whole-grain cereals and breads.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Research shows that maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can reduce a person’s risk of developing macular degeneration. If you’re already overweight, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about how you can best shed some pounds.
By doing this, you’re also lowering your risk for other serious conditions such as cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Your blood pressure and your cholesterol can also play a role in protecting you from AMD.
Take Vitamins and Minerals
Some vitamins can help reduce the risk of vision loss for people who already have macular degeneration. It’s important that you speak with your doctor about which vitamins you should be taking, as it is possible to overdo some. For instance, it’s generally not recommended to take more than 500 mg of Vitamin E.
That said, there are vitamins that can improve eye health, including vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc and copper. There is no research that says these vitamins benefit people in the early stages of AMD, but they can be helpful for those in the mid-to-late stages.
Reduce Refined Carbohydrates
If there are some foods that you should eliminate from your diet, it’s refined carbohydrates (i.e., pretzels, donuts, white breads). One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that diets high in refined carbs increased the risk for AMD. Because these foods have a high glycemic index, they cause a fast release of blood sugar and insulin.
See Your Eye Doctor Regularly
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends having regular eye exams each year. If you are between the ages of 45 and 60, it’s recommended to dilate your eyes every 2-3 years. If you’re over the age of 60, you should dilate your eyes once a year.
Seeing the eye doctor regularly ensures that your eyes are in good health. If your doctor does see early signs of macular degeneration, you can keep an eye on the progression of the condition and hopefully slow its symptoms.
Although AMD is not curable, there is treatment available that can help you achieve a higher quality of life.